As a teenager growing up in Newport, Oregon, I couldn’t wait to hightail it out of town, but in more recent years, my nostalgia for the coast and all its beautiful quirks has led me back to books that feel like home.
I first recognized home in literature with my all time favorite novel Sometimes a Great Notion by Ken Kesey, but I owe much of my renewed appreciation for my Oregon Coast upbringing to local author Matt Love.
I’m a big fan of Love’s unfiltered writing style and his keen observations on Oregon Coast life. I appreciate the way he celebrates rain, astutely describes people as OTA (Oregon Tavern Age, meaning anywhere from forty to seventy years old), and that he’s not afraid to quote both Rod Stewart and Walt Whitman in a single paragraph.
Super Sundays in Newport, Love's collection of essays about his first year teaching English at Newport High School and his exploration of the local taverns, perfectly captures my home town with its mix of natural beauty, offbeat charm, uneven characters and plentiful watering holes.
Matt Love is a vocal champion of public beaches as a great birthright of Oregonians, so it comes as no surprise that he writes the introduction to Driftwood Forts of the Oregon Coast by James Herman. Part guidebook to an age-old Oregon beach tradition, part exuberant call to participate in the gratifying work of driftwood fort building, Herman’s book is a rare gem that you ought to check out before your next trip to the beach. Whether you end up building a classic a-frame, a rotunda or repurpose an existing structure, how you use your fort is up to you. As the book points out “One man’s tuna sandwich-eatin’ shack is another’s love shack.”
You can find more Oregon Coast related reads on my list here.
One hundred years ago, on August 4, 1914, Britain declared war on Germany – the culmination of six weeks of European sabre-rattling that followed the assassination of an Austrian Archduke and his wife by a Bosnian revolutionary. Did I know this in January 1976 when the fourth season of Upstairs, Downstairs began running on Masterpiece Theatre? Likely not, but I was gripped from the outset with this beloved series’ depiction of the Great War and its impact on the residents of 165 Eaton Place. I became hooked on World War I. A few years earlier, I’d watched Lord Peter Wimsey suffer from an episode of shellshock, but I didn’t really know what that meant until Eaton Place footman Edward Barnes returned from France and collapsed from the strain.
Right after Upstairs, Downstairs piqued my interest, The Duchess of Duke Street explored the War and a few years after that, To Serve Them All My Days told the story of a young shellshocked Welshman attempting to come to grips with his war service. Around this time, I also watched another British television series – still on PBS, but not on Masterpiece Theatre – Flambards, which obliquely touched on the War. At this point, I felt I knew enough about England’s and the English people’s sufferings to fill in the blanks.
After this, Masterpiece Theatre took a long break from the War to End All Wars, showing a bunch of equally interesting programs about World War II. (Since this year also brings a “significant” anniversary of this war – Britain declared war on Germany 75 years ago on September 3, 1939 – I could go on in this post, but instead, I added some suggestions to this list of DVDs.) Returning to World War I, Masterpiece Theatre presented three more programs in this century: My Boy Jack, Rudyard Kipling’s poignant memoir of the loss of his son (played by Daniel Radcliffe), and Birdsong, based on the novel by Sebastian Faulks. And don’t forget Season 2 of Masterpiece’s current uber- popular drama, Downton Abbey, where Matthew survives, Daisy marries a dying man, and Thomas Barrow takes the coward’s way out! Most recently, the BBC (via HBO) presented an adaptation of Ford Madox Ford’s World War I doorstopper, Parade’s End (starring Benedict Cumberbatch). If you enjoy history and costume drama, all of these are worth watching.
Quite obviously missing here is the German side of the Great War, which has not been depicted via Masterpiece, but you can still watch and be moved by the 1930 film made from Erich Maria Remarque’s masterpiece All Quiet on the Western Front.
Finally, many of Masterpiece Theatre’s programs are based on books, on “masterpieces” of literature, so if watching isn’t for you, MCL owns all of the source works mentioned here (with the exception of the venerable Upstairs, Downstairs and its close cousin, Downton Abbey, which were never books).
"The good-ol-boy system was great so long as you were one of the boys." Karin Slaughter's Cop Town, my latest read, not only held my attention with its action-packed suspense, but also made me think about what it means to be a woman in today's society.
If you've been following me since the inception of the My Librarian program, then you know that I love to read thrillers, mysteries, and police procedurals, the darker the better. Karin Slaughter has always been one of my go-to authors. Her Will Trent series is one of my favorites, and Beyond Reach, from her Grant County series, featuring doctor Sara Linton, contains one of the best, didn't-see-it-coming twists of an ending that I have ever read. Slaughter's latest has all of the elements of her previous books, a killer, a setting in deep south Georgia, quite a bit of violence (not for the faint of heart!), but it also speaks to the strides that women have made in the last 40 years in America.
Maggie Lawson and Kate Murphy are police officers in the almost all white, male-dominated Atlanta police force of 1974. They encounter resistance at every turn, from lewd remarks, to groping, to physical beatings in Maggie's case, all from their male colleagues (who are often drinking on the job). What makes their struggle even more poignant for me are their journeys outside of work, most notably Maggie's. She struggles to break free from her cop-infested, somewhat abusive family, but, as a woman in the south in 1974, she is unable to open a bank account, secure a car loan, or rent an apartment without her 'nearest living male's information'. When that nearest living male is her reviled uncle, and fellow officer, Maggie is seemingly out of luck.
In Cop Town, the struggle for women's rights is just as strong of a plot point as the search for the killer. Yes, this is a work of fiction, so some of the details may be exaggerated, but I can easily believe that life was like this for women in the south in 1974. Make no mistake - many of the characters in this book are appalling in their prejudice, even the females. But I highly recommend this book to you. It will not only take you on a suspenseful ride, but may just leave you appreciating what you have.
Listening to the radio, we hear music that is new, along with favorites, that may also be new from interpretations or performances that we haven't heard before. Though a common complaint of many is that email is too much, if you like to find out about music and musicians that might be new to you, Alexander Street Press has a signup for free music downloads every two weeks that arrive in your inbox. A short text about the composer and piece of music comes with the recording,
Alexander Street Press offers downloads from two collections that do not require logging in with your library card from Multnomah County Library : Classical Music Library and Smithsonian Global Sound for Libraries.
Sampler: Here is a Classical Music selection from past weeks of music:
Link to these two collections for the current week's downloads. Classical Music Library and Smithsonian Global Sound for Libraries.
Sampler: Erik Satie's Trois Sarabandes
French composer Erik Satie (1866–1925) has been called many things, but his musical legacy establishes best that he was, in essence, a visionary. Satie composed in a musical environment dominated by the heavily orchestrated, longwinded Germanic tradition—home to Wagner, Brahms, and Bruckner. In stark contrast, Satie’s music is clean, simple, and brief. Unlike the thematic transformations found in Wagner’s operas, Satie does not develop his motives, choosing rather to juxtapose shorter repeating phrases.
The sarabande originated as a movement in the Baroque dance suite. Centuries later, Satie’sThree Sarabandes for piano still bear a resemblance to the original sarabande. All three movements are in triple meter (though Satie’s irregular phrasing often obscures this), conform to an AABB form, and strive to emphasize the second beat of the measure, sometimes referred to as a “sarabande rhythm." Otherwise, these three short pieces are distinctly Satie.
The late 19th century was the beginning of a harmonic revolution and Satie surely enlisted. While Satie’s music was regarded as radical among more conservative musicians, he was really forecasting the new movements in 20th century music—minimalism, total chromaticism, and serialism, to name a few. While his teachers and peers strove to force him into following the rules and conventions of “proper” composition, Satie remained true to himself and ushered in the new wave of music. This recording is performed by France Clidat.
Sampler: Pakistan: The Music of the Qawal
The Sabri Brothers - Nât Sharîf. Qawwali is a form of Sufi devotional music popular in the northern regions of present-day Pakistan and India. Although it is thought to have originated in Persia, present-day Iran, and Afghanistan, the form of qawwali performed in this 1977 recording probably dates from the Mughal Empire (approximately 1526–1857) in the Indian subcontinent. Qawwali music became popular in the 20th century through the recordings of Pakistani singer Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. Other 20th-century performers include Aziz Mian and the Sabri Brothers.
To explore more of Music Online Alexander Street Press, login from home to the Multnomah County Library website with your MCL library card.
Check out this haiku-limerick mash-up from our friend Eric!
Do you like stories where families go away for the summer? Author Elin Hilderbrand takes her characters to Nantucket for the summer. OH to have a long vacation every summer! Where weeks bleed into months. Sometimes boredom sets in. Sometimes the need for fun causes tension. All of these elements are evident in this great new graphic novel This One Summer by Jillian Tamaki and Mariko Tamaki. Two families go to Awago Beach every summer. Rose and Windy have been friends who play together all summer while at their families’ vacation homes. Tensions rise a little bit because of the slight age differences of the girls in this coming-of-age tale. But like the waves on the shore they rise and fall.
Rose’s Mother has come to heal, the girls to grow and the Awago residents to cause sensation. If you like stories about friendship and families and beautiful brushwork illustrations like Craig Thompson’s, then you might like This One Summer. It might be your beach read. It might be your long exhale for vacation. Let the Tamiki creators sweep you away.
Okay, not really. Though I can't blame you for thinking that Hemingway is my favorite author. I admit, it's easy to get the wrong impression. After all, once the facts are considered, I am a little muddled myself about the truth of that statement.
- A Moveable Feast is my favorite book.
- 1920s literary Paris is my favorite era (in which he figures heavily).
- I've read nearly his entire canon—of my own free will and not as assigned reading.
- I consume voracious amounts of titles about him and his life.
- I have visited his homes around the world.
But personally, I find the man a little irritating. I think his characters are flat (especially the women) and there is a too heavy dose of machismo to, well, to everything. And yet—I am fascinated by the man and his life. It was an extraordinary one by all accounts. So what if this lifestyle was funded in part by the inheritances of his wives? They let him after all, and it allowed him to write. And kill lots of animals. Beautiful great wild animals...but I digress.
He must have been an absolute charmer and from time to time, I find myself falling for him. Or at least the idea of himself he was trying to create. I applaude his simple style both in language and drinks, his adventurous spirit, and his ability to call a kudu a kudu.
As a librarian I’m often asked for the name of my favorite author. Although at its heart this is not an easy question, time and time again I keep coming back to Nevil Shute. Discussions of Mr. Shute generally revolve around his 1957 novel On the Beach, which leads the way in Armageddon literature. In a nutshell the novel tells the story of the end of the world. As a radioactive cloud moves from the northern to the southern hemisphere all life is slowly extinguished. The citizens of Australia are the last to go and Shute’s novel slowly reveals the story of the end of their lives. It is gripping tale, not just because of the subject matter but because of the way Shute tells it; calmly and gently, as if this imagined yet horrific moment in history was an everyday occurrence.
Born in 1899, Shute started his working life as an aeronautical engineer before chucking it all to write full time. Although he never thought of himself as an author, he became a skilled storyteller. Many of his novels involve long, arduous journeys, both physical and spiritual. Flashbacks, and back story add shape and depth to the characters and their worlds. Shute’s other novels are equally as satisfying. Many are a reflection of his background, with aviation taking center stage. All of his novels benefit from his innate ability to harvest story ideas from the world around him.
Reading a Nevil Shute novel is the ultimate escape – to be taken somewhere so unexpected and to such depths that the stories become a part of the reader’s memory: lived, experienced and treasured. For anyone looking for just such a read, try any of these novels by Nevil Shute:
I recently finished a three-month temporary assignment as a delivery driver here at the library. I have to say, I enjoyed it more than I thought I would when first asked. Upon reflection, however, I shouldn’t have been surprised. I’ve always liked to drive; I’ve had a fascination with cars since I was a little kid; and I find the history of the automobile, both from a social and technological perspective, of great interest. Okay, I don’t know how much any of that has to do with driving a box truck full of books around Multnomah County but, hey, it’s an excuse to introduce some of my favorite books about driving.
Most directly related to my experience is Trucking Country, an academic study of the commercial trucking industry in the U.S. and the rise of free-market capitalism in the 20th century. I thought it was fascinating but recognize it may not be for everyone. Much more accessible is The Big Roads. This is a popular history of the interstate highway system. The author, Earl Swift, focuses on the personalities involved in designing and administering what has been one the largest public works projects in the world. Its success can be measured in how ordinary it all seems today, yet 100 years ago nothing like it existed. I-84 certainly made commuting out to East County easy for me!
What is it about abandoned cars that is so fascinating? Here’s an early 1950s Dodge truck in southern Utah I photographed during a 2013 road trip. The 1949 Buick in the background can also be seen in the book Roadside Relics. Naturally, I have to include the travelogue, particularly its most American of subsets, the long-distance road trip. There is a whole romance to the open road in American culture. For example, consider how often in movies and especially car commercials the automobile is depicted as a source of freedom and adventure. This sense of romance has been captured in some truly beautiful books such as William Least Heat Moon’s Blue Highways, John Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley, and perhaps best known of all, Jack Kerouac’s semi-autobiographical On the Road. One of my favorites, however, is Driving to Detroit by Lesley Hazelton. Hazelton is a journalist best known for her reporting from the Middle East and her books on Islam, but often overlooked is her love of the car. Born in Britain but a naturalized American citizen, this six-month road trip from Seattle to Detroit and back is many things: her love letter to the automobile; an effort to understand the American affection for the highway; and an admission that cars can horribly damage the environment. Yes, it’s a mixed message, but she pulls it off so well. Her meandering drive brings her in contact with a host of colorful characters that truly reflect the many facets of the automobile in American culture.
If you’re interested in the car, or car culture, try one of the books above or something similar. If you have a favorite book to share, leave me a comment below.
Did you love reading and sharing Anne of Green Gables? Author Grace Lin grew up in New York reading this childhood classic, but wishing there were stories like that with a girl that looked like her in them. She explains it best herself in this interview in Publisher’s Weekly.
The children in Grace’s books may have Asian faces, but are anything but stereotypical. These characters are recognizable first for their typical childhood struggles and joys and second as living among different layers of Chinese and American culture. To add to this, she illustrates her books in a bright, folk-art inspired style.
Lin’s book, When the Mountain Meets the Moon, won the Newbery Award in 2010. It was written for the 4-8th grades, but adults will also love this story and it will delight children ages 6-8 as a read aloud. The story is set in old China, with Chinese folktales and a bit of magic deftly woven into the narrative. You can hear Grace read from it on her website.
Grace Lin has also written excellent picture books, easy readers, and realistic fiction. Parents of 4-8 year olds might buy some fortune cookies and enjoy Fortune Cookie Fortunes. Or, after reading Lissy’s Friends, parents of school-age children could discuss how it feels to be left out of a group.
With your beginning reader, you can laugh with Ling and Ting, two twins that look the same, but act differently. (These were inspired by another of Lin’s childhood favorites, the classic triplet series, Flicka, Ricka and Dicka.)
2nd to 4th grade children will relate to Pacy in The Year of the Dog, a young girl who is worried that she has no special talents and can’t imagine what career she’ll have when she grows up. Adults will appreciate the warm family scenes and the interwoven Taiwanese-American culture.
Grace Lin, a new classic author.
N 45° 31.138 W 122° 40.971
These are the coordinates for the geocache that can be found at Central Library, known as Urban cache, plagiarized. The cache, which was created in 2002, has had enough visitors that its “author” had to create a second volume. Central’s geocache is unique, in that it has a call number and an entry in the library catalog, but there are reportedly other geocaches to be found at Capitol Hill, Fairview-Columbia, Gresham, Hollywood, North Portland and Woodstock libraries.
The third Saturday in August is Geocaching Day, created by geocaching.com (The Official Global GPS Cache Hunt Site), so it’s time to talk a little bit about geocaching. An anonymous geocacher from Iowa visited Central’s cache the other day and he described it as using extremely high-tech equipment to find Tupperware in the woods. According to the history page on geocaching.com, the game began in May 2000, when the data from GPS (Global Positioning System) satellites was unscrambled by the U.S. government and made available to anyone with a GPS receiver. The first cache was planted a few miles from Portland in Beavercreek by Dave Ulmer who wanted to check the accuracy of GPS by posting information about its coordinates to an online user group. He called it a “stash,” which was quickly changed to cache (for just the reason you are thinking) and the games began. Ulmer’s cache is no longer there, but a plaque now sits at the coordinates and there is still a place to record your visit.
The only rules of this game are: Enter your name (and any deep thoughts if you have them) in the cache’s logbook and, if you remove something from the cache, please leave something of equal value. I like that the large majority of goodies left in Central’s cache are those library-sized (2 ¾ x 5 in.) pieces of paper with the call number written on them (O-910.92 B668g). One of our veteran librarians tells me the reason why our geocache is in the 910s instead of the 620s (where our books on geocaching are), is because the owner of the cache selected the number based on his observation that the books on geography and exploration had that 910 number. After the fact (when we realized that we’d need a call number for geocaching), librarians decided the how-to books belonged in the military and nautical navigation section.
(How librarians decide what goes where in the Dewey Decimal System is a topic for another day!)
For more on geocaching, check out one of these books.
My brother is a fifth grade teacher and he sometimes asks me for ideas for books he can read to his class. With all the hoopla that attended the release of the first couple of movies, his class was trying to get him to choose The Hunger Games, but he thought that it contained too much violence and romance for 10-year-olds. I agreed and then suggested Lois Lowry's classic dystopian novel, The Giver.
I’m excited about the movie based on The Giver, which is being released on August 15. I really love the book, about Jonah, a boy living in some future world in which individuality, intense emotion and even color are outlawed, and in which all of life’s important decisions are made by the community’s leaders. Everything seems very calm and ordinary in this world-- but then Jonah is assigned a new and mysterious job that allows him to discover the truth about his community.
Parents should know that the book contains no sexual content and not much in the way of overt violence, although there is definitely some darkness. Jonah was twelve in the book, though, and in the movie he's about sixteen, so the filmmakers seem to have taken some liberty with the story. Do have the kids read the book before they see the movie, and read it yourself, too. It’s a very good novel, beautifully written and thought-provoking. And if you have kids who are interested in young adult dystopian fiction, but you think they’re a little young for The Hunger Games and Divergent, check out this list.
One of my favorite things to do is bake. The only kind of cooking I really like doing needs to involve some sort of baking (savory tarts, potpies, even meat loaf qualifies). I also enjoy dining at many of Portland's fantastic restaurants. One of the best ways to combine these 2 loves of mine is to find cookbooks that have been written by the fine chefs of those establishments. I give 4-star reviews to those cookbooks that actually have recipes that come out as delicious as when the restaurants whip them up.
One of my absolute favorite baking books is The Grand Central Baking Book. First of all, Grand Central Bakery is one of the best cafes around; their cinnamon rolls, jammers, and all of their breads are amazing. The recipes in this cookbook are easy to follow with lots of tips on how to create the delicious treats exactly as they are served in their cafes. Two floury thumbs up for the oatmeal chocolate chip cookies I made!
Another wonderful restaurant/cookbook combo I recommend is Mother's Bistro & Bar/Mother's Best: Comfort Food That Takes You Home Again by Lisa Schroeder. I've enjoyed everything I've made or eaten from Mother's. Again, she gives you little tidbits of information so that your recipes will be even better. Try the chicken and dumplings or the meatloaf. I promise you won't be disappointed.
Try a local restaurant then recreate those recipes at home!
Adults so often think the world belongs to them. They are the do-ers and the deciders. What does that limited perspective look like from a kid's point of view? Two recent books in very different formats ask the question, 'what does it look like when the adults around you - the ones you rely on for stability and guidance - lose it?'
In Casebook, Miles is increasingly alarmed by his mother's erratic behavior after she and his father break up. Rather than just leaving the adults to do what it is adults do, he launches a surveillance campaign. He and his best friend Hector go from eavesdropping, to monitoring email, to setting up an elaborate phone tapping system, all so Miles can determine what his mom is thinking, how the new man in her life, Eli, will affect him and his twin sisters, and where Eli goes when he is not with them. As Miles and Hector begin to grow more suspicious of Eli's motives they pool their money to hire a private investigator - one of the sole adults who treats their concerns seriously.
In the graphic novel This One Summer, Rose and Windy are the best of summer cottage friends. This year, Rose has a crush on the clerk at the town's corner store, so the two girls create a ritual of visiting frequently for gummy bears and horror movies, all the while surreptitiously observing the dramas and relationships of the town's teenagers. All is not well at Rose's cabin either; her mother seems depressed and removed from the excitement of life at the cottage while Rose's dad tries his best to enjoy and encourage Rose's sense of wonder. As Rose and Windy move around the edges of an incomprehensible adult world, they cling to the games and activities that remind them of a world unsullied by adult complications. Dreamy line drawings evoke the joy and enthusiasm of childhood and the mystery of the encroaching adult world.
If you enjoy stories set in that precarious limbo between childhood and adulthood, these might be just what you're looking for.
My first encounter with Elaine May was a stumbled-upon PBS special about her years performing comedy with Mike Nichols. Surprising, smart, subversive stuff (some skits available on YouTube). It gave me a hankering to seek out her work as a director.
I admire minimalists. I really do. I totally get the peace of mind that comes with clean surfaces and simple outlines. I love natural linen, wood and neutral shades with bare hints of color. It’s just that I can’t maintain it for long.
I gravitate towards clashing patchwork patterns and ric rac. I see an amateur oil painting being discarded, and I have to rescue it. At the beach, I fill my pockets with interesting bits of wood and rock and when my father passed away, I claimed his collection of antlers to remember him by.
Rather than see all of this stuff as clutter, I’ve been finding inspiration in my collections. A messy stack of books becomes an art installation when towered high on a vintage toddler chair. Tiny plastic goats balanced on the ledges of picture frames, add whimsy to a room, and in my opinion, antlers look good stacked or hung just about anywhere.
Maybe you’re a collector of objects yourself. Maybe like me, you’ve been trying to suppress your love of found, thrifted and handmade objects for the sake of living simply. Maybe you don’t have to. Check out my list for books that will inspire you to clear out your attic and display the things that bring you joy. After all, it’s not clutter if it’s curated.
Do you enjoy turning your speakers up to 11, like Nigel in Spinal Tap? Or do you find yourself craving silence in our often noisy world? How about little bit of both, like me?
Before coming to Portland, I lived in a little house in the middle of the big woods. No neighbors. Quiet all the time, except for the occasional train, animals, birds, and frogs. Now living in the city, I enjoy a cacophany of sounds every day. You know them, the buses, the trains, the cars, the people. It's been a huge transition, as I now have to seek out the quiet that I used to take for granted, but I find it has become one of my favorite hobbies. Of course, travel outside the city limits, and one can find any number of places in which to soak in the silence: the Columbia River Gorge is a favorite of mine. Peaceful Places, Portland is a wonderful book that will guide you to the most serene places in the city. So many opportunities exist to find solitude and quiet, and I think it is good for the mind, body, and soul to enjoy them when we can.
Summer is a busy time for everyone. But sometimes we need to put the busy aside and just BE. This has been your friendly reminder to enjoy the silence. Check out the list of books below for some inspiration on ways to find peace and quiet in a loud world.
Now, for those who are interested...